Tag: Joyce Carol Oates

August 2015 Mini-Reviews

Posted August 21, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction / 4 Comments

August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: Black Girl / White Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Published: Fourth Estate, 2006
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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Black Girl / White Girl tells the story of Genna Hewett-Mead who is reflecting on a traumatic event in her past. Fifteen years ago, in 1975 while attending an exclusive women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia, her roommate Minette Swift died a mysterious and violent death. Minette was a scholarship student and one of the few African American women to be let into the college. Genna, a quiet woman of privilege got to witness the effects of racism first hand as the racist harassment escalated from vicious slurs to something far worse. However whoever was responsible for this murder still remains a mystery to this day. I had never read Joyce Carol Oates before and I thought this may be my chance to experience her writing. The premise of this novel intrigued me and I was looking forward to uncovering the mystery at play. However, this turned out to be a novel about reflecting on the changing times; I was interested in learning about racism within America during the time of civil rights movements but this focused too much on Genna.

I understand that Joyce Carol Oates may not want to write a novel from the perspective of a person of colour, since she is Caucasian and probably could not do the situation any justice. Rather she took on the perspective of a woman of privilege experiencing the issue first hand. This may have made the book a little more autobiographical and allowed Oates to still explore the issue of racism. While I enjoyed this book, I did not find anything special about it. Maybe this was not the best example of Joyce Carol Oates’ writing but I will try more of her novels in the future.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Testimony (Goodreads)
Author: James Smythe
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 368
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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First there was static and the whole world freaked out. Then came a voice that said “My Children, Do not be afraid”. People said it was God, others said it was the government and still others believed it was aliens. The whole world was brought to a halt but no one had the answers. The Testimony details the apocalypse from the perspective of twenty six people around the world. James Smythe is a master at writing science fiction that will really make you ponder life and The Testimony is no different.

I was curious to check out James Smythe’s debut novel ever since I discovered his novels. The Machine was my first Smythe and still remains my favourite although many do prefer The Explorer. For me, while The Testimony was a thrilling read, it just was not on the same level as the other books I have read. Dealing with so many different perspectives was a great way to capture the different opinions and question the events. However this novel was not overly impressive, still a great book but if I compare if to James Smythe’s other novels, it falls short. This is proof on just how far Smythe has improved and makes me excited to read something new by this great author.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Firebird (Goodreads)
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2013
Pages: 539
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
My Copy: Audiobook

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Nicola has a rare gift, she can touch an item and glimpse the lives of its previous owners. When she holds a small wood carving called The Firebird she sees a glimpse of Catherine I, wife and later successor to the Tsar Peter the Great. The Firebird is a fresh take on the time traveling romance genre, blending it with the ever popular paranormal romance genre. This is the second book in the Slains series by Canadian author Suzanna Kearsley.

My wife is a big fan of Kearsley and since this novel is partly set in Russian she thought I should check it out. There is some interesting aspects of the life and times of Peter the Great and allowed me to learn a little more about Russian history and culture. However there is something about this novel that I did not like. The Firebird is a story with no conflict and no antagonist and for me this meant it was a really boring novel. I understand people would read this book for the romance but I was uninterested in that story line, I was reading this for the Russian setting. Obviously I am the wrong person to judge The Firebird, it really was not my type of book.